Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Camille Dilshan Palani-Nathan

Palani-Nathan, Camille Dilshan "Nathan"
Chavez, Marlene
Date of Interview: 
cultural identification; relationships with people and places; overcoming obstacles; then and now
Camille Nathan talks about coming to the US and his college and career choices.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Marlene Chavez interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
MC (Marlene Chavez): Hi name is Marlene Chavez and I'm here with Nathan and he's going to tell us a little about himself.
CP (Camille Dilshan Palani-Nathan): Hey, what's up? My name is, uh, Camille Dilshan Palani-Nathan. Yeah, that's a mouthful. Um, I was born in Columbo, Sri Lanka which is a little island below India. Uh, not a lot of people know about that island. Uh, [laugh] most people think I'm Indian and, uh, well, I guess I could see why they think so [laugh]. But, uh, yeah, I lived there for about five years and then I moved down to the Middle East with my parents, uh, which my dad got a job down there, which is why we moved in the first place, uh, and I started going to school there. I studied, I started off with English so, which is probably why I know English as my only language. Uh, I do not speak my mother tongue, uh, which is, uh, Singalese. Actually they speak three different languages in my country, which is English, Singalese, and Tarnil. And, uh, I only speak English. So, uh, well what else? Hmm. Oh yeah, I studied for 13 years in the Sultanate of Oman soon which is the country that I lived in, in the Middle East. Uh, it was, it was a pretty good country and there was no problem, um, there was no like conflict or anything like they have right now, uh, you know, the whole Middle East, uh, war thing and all that. So, huh, I moved to the United States about seven years ago, which would be '96, not seven, it will be six, six years ago, '96. Um, it was a pretty different experience, um, coming to the United States 'cause, um, the, our society was so much different. Like in the US people do a whole, do things a whole lot different and back in Sri Lanka we would, uh, have like a different way of doing certain things like, hmm, it would be hard to think of, but, uh, uh, do you have something you could, uh, ask me now?
MC: When you came to the United States, uh, what kind of feelings did you have? And tell me a little about how you came and how did you come, and where did you move to and all that other stuff.
CP: Let's see, um, I actually went to Sri Lanka first from Oman before I came to the US because I wanted to see my grandparents for like the last time, I guess, 'cause I haven't gone to see them again. Um, it was a, it was a very hard experience to leave all my friends behind, uh, like lifelong friends I've known since I was a kid. Uh, but, I was, I was kind of scared I guess, just the idea of coming to a new place and not knowing a whole lot about it 'cause it's, honestly I didn't know anything about it and, uh, it was kind of scary. But, along the way I kept thinking to myself, uh, I mean life wasn't too hard in Oman, it wasn't too hard to make friends, it wasn't too hard to go to school. So, it shouldn't be like, too much different. Uh, coming to what I've heard from people who were staying here like, uh, I used to have a friend who came to the US on visits and they would tell me it's not a whole lot different. Uh, it's just that you have to get used to the uh, the whole US accent, and, uh, yeah, and have people understand what the hell you are saying. So, huh, umm, it was about a 12-hour trip to the US from, um, I think it was London, yeah, and uh. I was, I was, pretty nervous the whole way and I kept thinking to myself the same thing over and over again, "What's going to happen? I don't know." But, uh, it turned out pretty good, 'cause I went to school down in Winston-Salem. Um, it was up, yeah, I was up in Winston-Salem. So, uh, I went to school for about three years at Bishop McGuiness High School and the people there were very, very nice. I got along just well and I was surprised, um, a little but, because I didn't know what to expect but, uh, so far I've had very, very good experiences here in the US. I can't complain [laugh].
MC: Um, when did you decide or how did you decide what college you wanted to go to and when, you know, when you came here did you make friends right away or did you come to college with your friends or, you know, what is it that you wanted to do when you, when you got to the US? Did you want to go to school and make a career and what kind of things were you looking forward to?
CP: Lets see, uh, one of the main things, uh, one of the main reasons for my coming here to the US was uh, at least for my parents' reasons for me coming to the US would be for me to get like, uh, a good career going for me. And especially in computers which is what I'm doing right now. Uh, the US has a very good base for starting computer-based careers. Uh, I, um, I am studying computer engineering which is, um, something that I've always wanted to do for a while now. Uh, before I came to UNC Charlotte, um, I used to go with three of my friends, my very good friends who are also my roommates, uh, we used to go to Forsyth Tech, uh, a community college back in Winston-Salem. We had a, we had a blast. It was very, very easy-going compared to life here in the, in like a real college [laugh]. It was, I would say it was a very hard decision because UNC Charlotte has always been a good college as far as engineering, so-. Uh, that went pretty well, as far as, uh, my education goes, um, it's been quite a good, let's see 13, 14 years? Yeah, but I'm just so tired of school now [laugh]. I'm just waiting for it to be over and go out there and get a job and get settled, you know?
MC: Um, do you have any regrets or you know, bad feelings about moving here or and would you ever move back to Sri Lanka?
CP: Uh, the only regret I have would be, uh, not being able to see my friends, uh, I haven't seen them in over six years, so, uh, the only correspondence I've had with them is through e-mail or, uh, letters and telephone calls and stuff like that. But, uh, that will be one of my only regrets. Plus, uh, it would be nice to go back to Sri Lanka and, uh, just, just chill 'cause, uh, it's, uh, I don't know, it's just that feeling of being at home 'cause only being in Sri Lanka gives me that, that feeling of calmness or, I don't know, it, it's just that feeling.
MC: So, would you stay here for the remainder of your years or would you move back?
CP: I think I would stay here, um, just because I've already, uh, grown to know a lot of people and my life has changed a lot since high school, uh, just because of the friends I've known so, I believe I will stay here for the rest of my life. I will go back to Sri Lanka once in a while 'cause I do miss like the place. So-.
MC: Well, thank you for sharing your story with me [laugh].